From the Archives:
Bush Silences a Dangerous Witness
Editor’s Note: The hanging of Ali Hassan al-Majid, known as “Chemical Ali” for his role in using chemical weapons in Iraqi wars of the 1980s and early 1990s, silenced yet one more witness who otherwise could have filled in the blanks of the Reagan-Bush-I roles in secretly assisting Saddam Hussein’s armies, the so-called Iraq-gate scandal.
If Majid had been turned over to the International Criminal Court – rather than prosecuted by kangaroo tribunals set up in Iraq by George W. Bush’s administration – he could have been systematically debriefed about what U.S. officials, including George H.W. Bush, did to facilitate Iraq’s acquisition of dangerous chemical weapons.
Instead, Majid – wearing a red jump suit, his head covered by a black sack and a noose around his neck – was dropped through the trap door of a scaffold on Monday. His potential to embarrass the Bush Family was eliminated, just as was done to Saddam Hussein three years ago, as this Dec. 30, 2006, article (slightly modified) recounts:
The hanging of Saddam Hussein was supposed to be – as the New York Times observed – the “triumphal bookend” to George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq. If all had gone as planned, Bush might have staged another celebration as he did after the end of “major combat,” posing under the “Mission Accomplished” banner on May 1, 2003.
But by the end of 2006, with nearly 3,000 American soldiers already killed and the Iraqi death toll exceeding 600,000 by some estimates, Bush was forced to savor the image of Hussein dangling at the end of a rope a little more privately.
Still, Bush had done his family’s legacy a great service, while also protecting secrets that could have embarrassed other senior U.S. government officials, both past and present.
By arranging Saddam Hussein's execution, Bush had silenced a unique witness to crucial chapters of the secret history that stretched from Iran’s Islamic revolution in 1979 to the alleged American-Saudi “green light” for Hussein to attack Iran in 1980, through the eight years of the Iran-Iraq War during which high-ranking U.S. intermediaries, such as Donald Rumsfeld and Robert Gates, allegedly helped broker supplies of war materiel for Hussein.
Hussein now won’t be around to give troublesome testimony about how he obtained the chemical and biological agents that his scientists used for producing the unconventional weapons that were deployed against Iranian forces and Iraqi civilians. He can’t give his perspective on who got the money and who facilitated the deals.
Nor will Hussein be available to give his account of the mixed messages delivered by George H.W. Bush’s ambassador April Glaspie before Hussein’s 1990 invasion of Kuwait. Was there another American “green light” or did Hussein just hear what he wanted to hear?
Like the climactic scene from the Mafia movie “Casino” in which nervous Mob bosses eliminate everyone who knows too much, George W. Bush guaranteed that there would be no public tribunal where Hussein could give testimony on these potentially devastating historical scandals and thus threaten the Bush Family legacy.
That could have happened if Hussein had been turned over to an international tribunal at The Hague as was done with other tyrants, such as Yugoslavia’s late dictator Slobodan Milosevic. Instead Bush insisted that Hussein be tried in Iraq despite the obvious fact that the deposed Iraqi dictator would receive nothing close to a fair trial before being put to death.
Hussein's hanging followed his trial for executing 148 men and boys from the town of Dujail in 1982 after a foiled assassination attempt on Hussein and his entourage. Hussein's death effectively mooted other cases that were supposed to deal with his alleged use of chemical weapons to kill Iraqi civilians and other crimes that might have exposed the U.S. role.
[For details on what Hussein might have revealed, see Robert Parry’s Secrecy & Privilege or Consortiumnews.com’s “Missing U.S.-Iraq History” or “The Secret World of Robert Gates.”]
Thrill of the Kill
Some observers thought Bush simply wanted the personal satisfaction of seeing Hussein hanged, which would not have happened if he had been sent to The Hague. As Texas governor, Bush sometimes took what appeared to be perverse pleasure at his power to execute prisoners.
In a 1999 interview with conservative writer Tucker Carlson for Talk magazine, Bush ridiculed convicted murderer Karla Faye Tucker and her unsuccessful plea to Bush to spare her life.
Asked about Karla Faye Tucker’s clemency appeal, Bush mimicked what he claimed was the condemned woman’s message to him. “With pursed lips in mock desperation, [Bush said]: ‘Please don’t kill me.’”
But a more powerful motive was always Hussein’s potential threat to the Bush Family legacy if he ever had a forum where he could have offered detailed testimony about the historic events of the past several decades.
Upon stepping into the White House on Jan. 20, 2001, George W. Bush made it a top priority to conceal the history of his father’s 12 years as Vice President and President and to wrap his own presidency in a thick cloak of secrecy.
One of Bush’s first acts as President was to sign an executive order that blocked the scheduled release of historic records from his father’s years. After the 9/11 attacks, Bush expanded his secrecy mandate to grant his family the power to withhold those documents from the American public in perpetuity, passing down the authority to keep the secrets to future Bush generations.
So, even after George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush were dead, those noted historians Jenna and Barbara Bush would control key government documents covering a 20-year swath of U.S. history.
Under George W. Bush’s rules, every document at the George H.W. Bush presidential library had to be cleared for release first by specialists at the National Archives and – if classified – by the affected agencies, but then also by the personal representatives of both the senior and junior George Bush.
With their backgrounds in secret societies like Skull and Bones – and with George H.W. Bush’s work at the CIA – the Bushes were keenly aware of the power that comes from controlling information. By keeping crucial facts from the American people, the Bushes could turn the voters into more easily manipulated children.
Whenever there was a potential rupture of valuable information, the Bushes intervened aggressively, turning to influential friends to discredit some witness or relying on the U.S. military to make the threat go away, as happened to the likes of Panama’s Manuel Noriega and Iraq’s Saddam Hussein.
The Bushes were helped immeasurably, too, by the credulity and cowardice of the modern U.S. news media and the Democratic Party. [Again, see Secrecy & Privilege for details.]
[On President Barack Obama’s second day in office, he reversed Bush’s order granting family heirs control over presidential records, but many of the Bush Family secrets – both from the first and second Bush administrations – remain hidden, in part, because neither the Obama administration nor Congress has undertaken any systematic review of the records.]
What Can Be Done
Still, even with Hussein’s execution [and now Majid’s], there remain opportunities for the American people to finally recover this lost history.
The U.S. military is sitting on a treasure trove of documents seized during the invasion of Iraq in 2003. The Bush administration exploited these documents to discredit the United Nations over the “oil for food” scandal of the 1990s, ironically when Hussein wasn’t building weapons of mass destruction. But the Bush administration has withheld the records from the 1980s when Hussein was producing chemical and biological weapons.
In 2004, for instance, the CIA released the so-called Duelfer report, which acknowledged that the administration’s pre-invasion assertions about Hussein hiding WMD stockpiles were “almost all wrong.” But a curious feature of the report was that it included a long section about Hussein’s abuse of the U.N.’s “oil for food” program, although the report acknowledged that the diverted funds had not gone to build illegal weapons.
Meanwhile, the report noted the existence of a robust WMD program in the 1980s but offered no documentary perspective on how that operation had occurred and who was responsible for the delivery of crucial equipment and precursor chemicals. In other words, the CIA’s WMD report didn’t identify the non-Iraqis who made Iraq’s WMD arsenal possible.
One source who has seen the evidence told me that it contains information about the role of Chilean arms dealer Carlos Cardoen, who has been identified as a key link between the CIA and Iraq for the procurement of dangerous weapons in the 1980s. [One CIA official, who was identified as a connection to Cardoen's network, was then-CIA Deputy Director Robert Gates, who became Defense Secretary shortly before Hussein’s hanging in 2006 and remains so to this day.]
The American people also could demand that the surviving members of Hussein’s regime be fully debriefed on their historical knowledge before their voices also fall silent either from natural causes or additional executions.
But Saddam Hussein, the singular figure who could have put the era in its fullest perspective and possibly provided the most damning evidence about the Bush Family, has been silenced for good, dropped through a trap door of a gallows and made to twitch at the end of a noose fashioned from hemp.
The White House announced that George W. Bush didn’t wait up for the happy news of Hussein’s hanging. After the U.S. military handed Hussein over to his Iraqi executioners, Bush went to bed at his Crawford, Texas, ranch and slept through the night.
Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Neck Deep: The Disastrous Presidency of George W. Bush, was written with two of his sons, Sam and Nat, and can be ordered at neckdeepbook.com. His two previous books, Secrecy & Privilege: The Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq and Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & 'Project Truth' are also available there. Or go to Amazon.com.
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